Weekend Thoughts - 8.12.17

   Image  by  Pedro Travassos , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Pedro Travassos, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. Although the general consensus in the tech community supports the idea that autonomous vehicles will eventually largely replace human-operated ones, so far humans are still able to see the world better than self-driving cars. As of right now, autonomous vehicles are probably better than inexperienced, tired, drunk, visually-impaired, or elderly human drivers, but they're no match for competent and experienced drivers. A big factor in that equation is the current state of these cars' sensors, which are still quite limited. However, self-driving cars already have human-operated vehicles beat in scenarios like driving in the dark or in situations that test reaction time. Ultimately though, autonomous vehicles are coming and in my opinion they will be a significant improvement over the typical unreliable human driver.

2. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the digital rights watchdog group, has submitted a court filing arguing that federal agents at international airports should be required to obtain a warrant before demanding access to citizens' technological devices. Warrantless border searches are currently allowed under an exception to the Fourth Amendment, and they have more than doubled under the reign of Donald Trump. EFF has argued that that since devices like laptops and cell phones store highly personal information, "agents should be required to show they have probable cause to believe that the device contains evidence of a violation of the immigration or customs laws", and that border agents should not be able to examine a device's contents until after a judge has issues a warrant. In addition, the US Customs and Border Protection Agency restricted border searches to only locally-stored data back in July, but the EFF asserts that distinguishing between local data and cloud-based data isn't straightforward, and that data stored in the cloud can "appear as a seamless part of the digital device when presented at the border". For the record, I'm firmly on the side of the EFF here—I don't believe border agents have legitimate reasons to pry into our digital devices en masse, but I would support their right to do so if a judge granted search warrants on a case-by-case basis.

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.